JERUSALEM – Started on 18 April, the sad observance of the centenary of the Armenian genocide, which cost the lives of 1 ½ millions of Armenians, ended on 24 April 2015 through a series of events, in Armenia first, but also in the diaspora. Jerusalem, where the number of Armenians is relatively high, lived the hour of commemorations culminating at the Holy Sepulchre, where liturgy was celebrated.
In the Old City of Jerusalem, bells of many churches sounded the death knell, posters glued on the walls evoke some calendar details of the first genocide of the XXth century, the symbolic flower of the commemoration seen everywhere.
This 5-petalled flower – a reminder that the Armenians sought shelter in five continents – bears the slogan “remembering, without forgetting”, a challenge for a country, branded by red hot iron, which still suffers from Turkey’s denial to use the term “genocide”.
For the remembrance, the Armenian Apostolic Church did not spare any tool. Though no canonization was celebrated since the XIVth century, Patriarch Karekin II, at the head of the Armenian church, canonized on 23 April “sons and daughters who accepted the martyrdom of saints” for the sake of faith and homeland”. 24 April was declared a day of remembrance for the Saint Martyrs of the genocide”
In an encyclical dated 28 December 2014, the Head of the Armenian Church exhorted the faithful: “Let us turn the remembrance of our martyrs into an energy and a force inside our spiritual and national life, before God and all peoples, lighting the way by our just course and guiding our trail towards the realization of justice and our holy aspirations”.
At the Church of the Calvary and Resurrection, a fervent prayer
In the Holy City, an intensive programme of celebrations was set up by the large diaspora and the Patriarchate of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Prayers, masses but also gatherings before the Turkish Embassy, facing the Government of Ankara and its position of denying the genocide.
Between two commemorative services, the spiritual leaders in Jerusalem met at the Holy Sepulchre, the entrance of the tomb left empty on the morning of the Resurrection.
Between the singing and prayers, some words were pronounced by the Armenian, Greek Orthodox and Latin Patriarchs. The Armenian Patriarch did not fail to talk about other Christian confessions, victims of the same genocide of 1915.
In his address, Mgr Fouad Twal condemned the “mendacity behind the denial” and the “neuralgic reaction of Turkey” facing the “honesty of Pope Francis who said: “it is necessary, and indeed a duty to recall the centenary of that tragic event … Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleed without bandaging it”. He called on the assembly “to remember those many Christians persecuted today for their faith.
One single prayer this Friday went up to Heaven from the Holy Sepulchre, realizing what Pope Francis had baptized nearly a year before at the same place “ecumenism of suffering, ecumenism of blood”. The day before, 23 April, the bells of 28 churches of Jerusalem rang together, a hundred times, in memory of 1 ½ million Armenians killed at the time of the genocide. After “hundred years of denial”, in the fervor of congregants and souvenir of canonized martyrs, the hour has finally come for acknowledgement and consolation.
Pierre Loup de Raucourt
Source: Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem